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The rectors of Canadian universities are positioning themselves on anti-Semitism | Middle East, the eternal conflict

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The rector of the University from Montreal, Daniel Jutras, explained that “the Canadian and Quebec Charters and the Criminal Code, which condemn incitement to racial hatred.”

The Canadian Press

The presidents of Canada's leading universities say any call for genocide of the Jewish people violates their institution's code of conduct, but they remain cautious about whether this ban also extends to statements in favor of it. ;“elimination of the State of Israel.”

Five federal Liberal MPs asked this question to the leaders of 27 universities in December, in the face of an upsurge in anti-Semitic speech since the attacks perpetrated by Hamas militants against civilians in southern Israel on October 7.

Israel retaliated in a war that Hamas officials in Gaza say has left more than 25,000 Palestinians dead, including many children. /p>

Since the start of this war, police across Canada have reported a sharp increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes. Local leaders say they live with fears that the Jewish people have not known for generations.

Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, himself even Jewish, was among five MPs who wrote to the heads of Canada's largest universities last month to ask specific questions about their policies on anti-Semitism on campus.

Middle East, the eternal conflict

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The other signatories were the Montreal Liberal MPs David Lametti and Anna Gainey, Winnipeg MP Ben Carr and Torontonian Marco Mendicino.

The deputies asked the rectors to provide, by January 20, written answers to a series of questions, including whether a call for genocide of the Jewish people or elimination of the State of Israel would violate their campus code of conduct.

The responses, published Wednesday by Mr. Housefather, all affirm that calling for genocide would violate their code of conduct, whatever the context, rejoices the Montreal MP.

These clear positions contrast sharply, moreover, with the responses provided by certain leaders of American universities last year during congressional hearings on anti-Semitism on campuses .

Former University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill ultimately resigned after initially telling elected officials that decisions about what would violate an institution's code of conduct depended on context.

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Université Laval

On the question of how Canadian universities could respond to calls for the elimination of the State of Israel, the responses were fewer and more nuanced, Mr. Housefather noted.

Only eight of 27 university leaders addressed the issue, some more directly than others, he said in an interview Wednesday. Sometimes it's a little more subtle.

What was clear, he said, was that some rectors and principals saw the issue as more complex and therefore tried to be more careful in their responses. I hope that the call for the eradication of a nation, which is a form of genocide, will also be addressed, Mr. Housefather hoped.

The rector of the University of Montreal, Daniel Jutras, explained that the Canadian and Quebec Charters and the Criminal Code, which condemn incitement to racial hatred as well as any discriminatory expression, apply on our campuses and to all members of our university community.

These laws prohibit the call for genocide of the Jewish people, the Palestinian people, as well as any other identifiable people or group, underlines Rector Jutras. While the violence continues in Israel and Gaza at the cost of human lives, the University of Montreal and the members of its community will continue to play their fundamental role of producing and transmitting knowledge, with rigor, ;openness, tolerance, delicacy and empathy that this difficult period requires.

The rector of the University of Quebec in Montreal, Stéphane Pallage, first responded to the deputies' letter with a more general missive in which he indicated that the call to hatred was not tolerated at UQAM.

When Mr. Housefather pointed out that he was not clearly answering the questions raised by MPs, Mr. Pallage responded briefly: A call for genocide violates all of the University's values, as do our policies and the Charter of Rights and Responsibilities of Students. Under no circumstances can it be tolerated.

Concordia University, which experienced violent incidents last fall, denounced the call for genocide of the Jewish people without mentioning the elimination of the State of Israel , just like the University of Sherbrooke and McGill University, which condemn any form of call to genocide.

Alone three leaders unequivocally indicated that direct statements demanding the elimination of the State of Israel would violate their establishment's code of conduct.

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The president of the prestigious Harvard University, Claudine Gay, has resigned at the start of the year.

The rector of Laval University, Sophie D'Amours, responded that the call for genocide against the Jewish people or the elimination of the State of Israel effectively constituted a violation of the university's code of conduct. The head of Queen's University wrote in his January 18 letter that a call for the elimination of the State of Israel would be considered a form of harassment discriminatory.

Patrick Deane, director and vice-chancellor of this institution in Kingston, Ontario, adds that the call for genocide is a call for violence and death, and there is no doubt that such a call is unequivocally wrong and carries sanctions beyond the jurisdiction of the university.

University of Manitoba President Michael Benarroch wrote that the call for the elimination of the State of Israel, or any other state, can reasonably be interpreted as a call for violence against the people of this State and, as such, would constitute a violation of our policies.

By making these letters public Housefather hopes people will better understand each university's position on issues related to anti-Semitism, including their specific efforts to protect Jewish students.

There was great fear and discontent at all levels among students, faculty members and their families – and it didn't help. magically changed over time, he said.

The MP maintains he still hears about problems arising almost daily on college campuses. This can be remedied by educating people and establishments by implementing their existing policies, he added.

Do I think things are a little better? Yes, I think things are generally a little better, but there are still a lot of problems.

A parliamentary committee should undertake a study on the #x27;anti-Semitism overall, not just on postsecondary campuses, he added.

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